The front and rear styling on Toyotas largest passenger car has been revised for the 2003 model year. The Avalon is considerably more distinctive in appearance and more noticeable than the companys class-leading, somewhat smaller Camry sedan. Last restyled for 2000, the upscale front-wheel-drive family sedan gets several comfort and safety changes for 2003. Multistage front airbags and ISOFIX child-restraint tethers are installed.
In terms of its exterior dimensions, the Avalon is one of the smaller models in the full-size passenger-car class. The Avalon stems from the lower-priced previous-generation Camry, which was redesigned for the 2002 model year. Both models are built at Toyotas plant in Georgetown, Ky. The base XL model and the more costly XLS sedan are available to seat either five or six passengers.
Flashier in appearance than the original Avalon, the 2003 model gets a wider vertical-bar grille and a lower air intake that complements the steeply angled windshield and rear window. The Avalons A-pillars are rounded, but the most dramatic characteristic on this car is its rear-end appearance, which is highlighted by large taillights that have been widened for 2003. A new chrome accent goes above the rear license plate.
New layered gauges are installed in the 2003 Avalon. An air-filtration system and sun visors with extensions are also new.
The Avalons seating configuration is a matter of choice. Front bucket seats or a three-place bench that yield space for five or six occupants can be installed. No other Japanese automobile offers seating for six people, and the rear seat allows more legroom than many of its competitors. The bench-seat models use a column-mounted gearshift lever and a 50/50-split bench design up front. A new perforated leather interior package is optional for the XL sedan with bucket seats.
Extras on the XLS sedan include rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming mirror on the drivers side and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with woodgrain accents. The new optional DVD navigation system uses a detachable remote control.
The Avalons trunk volume is close to 16 cubic feet, but the space looks even larger. A big opening makes it easy to load bulky items, and a small pass-thru section in the rear seatback permits owners to carry long objects, such as skis.
Under the Hood
Toyotas 3.0-liter dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine develops 210 horsepower and mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
All-disc antilock brakes and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. Traction control, Toyotas Vehicle Skid Control electronic stability system and emergency Brake Assist are optional in a group for the XLS sedan.
The exterior dimensions may be modest, but the Avalon makes efficient use of available space. People sometimes criticize Toyota for lacking excitement, but the Avalons styling cannot be called subtle.
Anyone who likes the comfortable ride, smooth and easy driving, ample performance and unfettered refinement of the Camry might easily fall for the Avalon. Owners get all the Camry attributes plus greater interior space and some extra amenities. Those extras cost more, but it might be worth the price to wind up with a smoothly civilized automobile that will still be worth something at resale time.